New Zealand's PM promotes four-day workweek for coronavirus recovery - Front Page Live

New Zealand’s PM promotes four-day workweek for coronavirus recovery

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

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With so many people out of work and businesses struggling to rebuild from the coronavirus crisis, it might seem counterintuitive to suggest that companies shorten their hours. But proponents of a four-day workweek have just gained a powerful ally: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern believes that a shorter workweek could actually help rebuild the economy. In a Facebook Live video, she said this:

I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that. I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

Ardern’s goal is to stimulate domestic tourism. New Zealand has virtually eliminated the coronavirus, but remains closed to foreign visitors. Tourism employs over 8% of the country’s workers and, along with industries that support tourism, accounts for almost 10% of the GDP.

Ardern also suggested more public holidays to encourage people to travel. But a four-day workweek might help more than the economy recover: it could also improve New Zealanders’ health.

A four-day workweek could bring long-lasting benefits

The idea of a four-day workweek has only recently begun gaining traction, so the research on its impacts is relatively new. But so far, the results are promising.

Several companies have found that shorter workweeks boost employees’ productivity—sometimes by as much as 40%. An extra free day shortens the time spent commuting, and lets workers spend more time with their families. Both of those factors likely explain why the new schedules made people happier.

And during the coronavirus crisis, people could use some extra happiness. During the lockdown, the Kindness Institute, a New Zealand organization that helps people learn to handle stress, saw its services being used 25% more than usual.

Will New Zealand companies heed Ardern’s advice? It’s too soon to say. But if they do their research, hopefully they’ll see that a four-day workweek could benefit workers and businesses alike.

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